Are Sewing Bloggers Cultural Leaders?

Hello Friends.

A few weeks ago I started subscribing to a sewing blog called Tilly and the Buttons. In addition to being an active sewist, Tilly is also an academic type and is writing a paper on leadership, using "the online sewing network as a microcosm of the user-led world and as a collaborative model of leadership". Sounds pretty interesting to me, so I thought I'd help out a bit by writing my own response to Tilly's questions.

I never would have thought to take a photo of one of my garments inside out before reading sewing blogs!

What does the online sewing community mean to you? Why do you participate?
I participate in the online sewing community because I find sewing to be a primarily solitary hobby. Getting together with friends to sew requires a fair bit of space and organization, it's a lot of fun, but it's not something I can do every day. Actually, I have recently discovered that there are a fair number of people in my community who at least have a working knowledge of a sewing machine! I can and do read sewing blogs daily. I have learned many techniques through all of this reading, but most of all, I find that I feel less weird about my hobby. My experiments in sewing and excitement over new fabric or getting stripes to match or simply my pride in something well-made all seems terribly normal.

Another reason that I participate in this community is because it is such a diverse one. Granted, nearly 90% are female and another 90% are white, but I would be very surprised if there is any other demographic category that clearly represents a majority of this community's members. There are so many ages, ideologies, geographic locations, preferences, styles, and voices. It's exciting! I want to be part of something that brings people together - something that helps us to lay aside our differences, find our similarities and improve upon them.

What are your favourite examples of projects initiated by sewing bloggers that capture this spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation?
I have to confess that I have yet to participate in a sew-along. I also do not have anywhere near the amount of home-made garments to participate in a Me-Made-Month. One day, the right sew-along will come along at the right time, and one day, I will have enough of my own garments. It is something I can look forward to. (I may retroactively participate in the jeans sew-along. Currently, I am working on dresses for little girls.)

Who are the “leaders” in the sewing blogosphere? Is everyone / can anyone be a leader?
I have thought a lot about this. I think the leaders in this online sewing community are the folks who produce quality, interesting garments AND have natural abilities as writers. Most are childless or have older/grown children. It takes time to blog well - in a way that is interesting and invites response. I have always struggled with writing and I have three young children, so it makes sense that at this point, I am not a leader.

There is also a difference between those who simply are leaders because of their great love of the craft and their ability to invite response and those who love the craft but write with the intent to position themselves in the limelight. I think Peter, Melissa, Steph, Myrna, Shams, Carolyn, Nancy K, Lauriana, Bunny, Summerset, and Trena fall into the first category. (And goodness, I keep thinking of others who I am leaving out. Sorry, everyone.)

Are you involved in any other network of makers, whether online or offline? What makes sewing blogs unique?
For the last two years, I have helped coordinate The All-Handmade Sale held at my church every year. It's a sale of handmade, homemade, and home grown items made by folks in our neighbourhood. Just the artisans and their art. It is such a great event, that even last year, when all of the other craft markets were doing poorly in Vancouver, our little sale still sold $10,000 worth of product. That's amazing!

But at a craft sale there is little to no chance for learning. Copying someone else's work is seen as an infringement rather than inspiration. The sewing blogs give me that opportunity. My recent failure with Simplicity 3775 is a case in point. I have seen so many beautiful and inspiring versions of this dress over the years that I bought the pattern and then finally made it up. And guess what? It isn't flattering or lovely on me! Hahaha! And that's the way it goes. I am learning. My online sewing friends help me along.

(I'm going to work on updating my blog roll. There are so many good sewing blogs out there!)


Tilly said…
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! You make such a good point about the diversity of people in the community - there is such a mixture of people, it would be hilarious to get them all in the same room (it'd be fine though - we'd just start talking fabrics!). Arts organisations are always talking about diversifying audiences but often struggle to reach beyond a certain demographic. The sewing community, on the other hand, attracts all sorts of people quite easily.
Aw, thank you for the mention. It's a really interesting topic, with interesting questions and your responses are so thoughtful!

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